What is the healthiest beer? Know that before you open the cold one.
We’re well into spring and warmer months are upon us, which means it’s time for barbecues, outdoor picnics and pool parties. And what goes better with grilling hamburgers and hot dogs than a nice cold beer?
We bring beer on the boat, pack it in coolers to take to the beach and pick it up at the tailgate before a game. There are even special summer beers that pop up during the warmer months of the year.
So how does beer compare when it comes to our health?
What is the healthiest beer?
We’re sorry to say there’s no magic beer that can fix your health woes — and according to Registered Dietitian Chris Mohr, it’s one of the fundamental ingredients in beer that gives it an unhealthy sheen.
Alcohol is one of beer’s main attractions: it’s an ingrained part of social culture around the world. It is also a toxic substance. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, cancer, a weakened immune system, cognitive disorders, mental health problems and alcohol addiction. Alcohol reduces our inhibitions after consumption, but it also has a stimulating effect that affects sleep, which can affect the overall quality of life.
“No matter where the alcohol comes from, the total alcohol, the ABV, is decisive,” says Mohr. “Whether that comes from beer, wine or other spirits, it’s the alcohol itself.”
According to Mohr, the healthiest beer is one with the lowest alcohol content. A standard drink made from regular beer is a 12-ounce beer with 5% alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But a quick trip to the beer department can have you buying a six pack with over 8% ABV or even 18% ABV.
“You think you’re drinking a beer, but you just had two drinks in a can,” says Mohr.
The last decade has seen the rise of “health” beers, which contain electrolytes, antioxidants and essential nutrients. Make no mistake, says Mohr, most of this is marketing lingo to trick consumers into “justifying their drinking.”
“If beer is our source of antioxidants and nutrients, we have many other issues to consider,” says Mohr, laughing. “There are a few[beers]that are fortified with different ingredients, but I certainly wouldn’t choose beer as my diet choice.”
Regardless of how beer is made, it is the alcohol content that will have the greatest negative health impact.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up beer or alcohol in general in order to eat healthily, Mohr says, although there are certainly health benefits to living a sober lifestyle. Low calorie and light beers are healthier – they are generally made with more water than standard beers to reduce the alcohol content. But not everyone likes the taste of light beers, which Mohr says gives you a chance to gauge why you’re drinking it in the first place:
“If you want to have a beer, have a beer — sometimes,” he says.
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Is a beer a day good for you?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines moderate drinking as no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men in a single day. There is some research that suggests a lower risk of diabetes for heavy drinkers compared to non-drinkers, and one study found beneficial effects on HDL function, or “good cholesterol,” with moderate beer consumption.
But there are also studies that suggest that not drinking alcohol improves your health, so there’s really no amount of beer you can drink in a day that would be actively good for you.
“Is that a ‘never drink alcohol’ message? No, but the benefits of abstaining from alcohol certainly outweigh the potential benefits of alcohol,” says Mohr.
Beer can also affect weight; Alcohol itself has calories, but it doesn’t work on its own. We’re more likely to overeat when our inhibitions are lower, and because alcohol is a poison, your body will work to get rid of it first and the other foods in your system will take longer to digest.
Even a beer after a long day at work can affect the quality of sleep when it’s close to bedtime. Alcohol is a depressant, but it wears off eventually and can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
Because of this, Mohr recommends being selective about drinking and setting parameters for yourself — maybe just with friends, or a few times a week.
“How do I want to appear, how do I have to appear the next day?” says Mohr about his consumer decisions. “So if it’s a Thursday night and I want to go to happy hour with my friends, do I have a really important meeting on Friday morning? Do my kids get up at 6 a.m. and I have to do my best?”
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